The idea of inclusion is sometimes used in a negative way by people who seek to demonstrate that they’re inclusive in front of others without actually practicing it. This is often done by people who are in situations of power. Recently, it was shared online that Luis Lacalle Pou, the president of my country, Uruguay, had his business cards in Braille, which is a reading and writing system used by people who are visually impaired.
Although this should be the norm, it was shared and shown to the world as something incredible and worthy of applause. “This is being truly inclusive,” said a writer on Twitter. As it was shared across the news, the message was always the same: “This is inclusion.”
As a visually impaired person, I will not deny that the fact that someone has their business cards in Braille seems to me to be inclusive, as this allows us all to access their content. However, I also believe that this kind of thing should be standardized. Public displays of grandeur like this lead to just the opposite because they put a public figure on a pedestal for doing something that, in fact, everyone should do.
Moreover, what people with disabilities in Uruguay are experiencing is not in line with this display of inclusion. The situation is getting worse for us every day.
The Ministry of Social Development, where the National Care System and the National Disability Programme are located, has suffered a budget cut of 15 percent, taking resources away from a ministry that, despite the budget increase in recent years, was still suffering from deficiencies. Further, the National Care System, which assists people with disabilities as well as elderly people and children, has been merged with the National Disability Programme, which not only makes care more inefficient in both cases, but in some cases causes it to be lost altogether.
People who benefited from the Care system and who now, due to the merger and the budget cuts, have seen their care completely discontinued have taken to Twitter and Facebook to report their situation. This system, which aims to provide care and follow-up for people with severe disabilities and their families, has been defined as “a very good programme for rich countries” by Armando Castaingdebat, the new undersecretary of this ministry, referring to the fact that Uruguay should not spend money on this kind of thing. These words alone make it possible to understand the position adopted by the current government with regard to this system. For them, it is just another expense, and one they are not willing to assume.
All these budget cuts, besides directly affecting the country’s most vulnerable population, go totally against the concept of inclusion. A business card with Braille is of no use if people with disabilities see the programs that are in charge of helping us crumble more and more every day.
Situations like these are not exclusive to Uruguay. At a time like this, when Americans are about to go to the polls to choose who will lead the country in the coming years, paying attention to superficial inclusion is crucial. It does not benefit people with disabilities. In fact, it only helps those who should be protecting us but are not doing so while benefiting at our expense. We need Braille business cards, but we also need real policies and people who, beyond what they show off publicly, are committed to making inclusion happen.